The Steel Cities region has long been known for its intense competition. But how would drivers stand against intense heat? That was the case as the season started off its first double weekend marking events 3 & 4 at Pittsburgh International Raceway Complex. Temperatures soared into the 90’s both days as drivers fought to keep their heads in the game and their tire temps under control. Several drivers who haven’t been seen around the paddock in a while also made appearances. Even Karen Rafferty stopped by on her Harley Saturday just to say hello! The course designs for both days were led by Chris Carlisle with support of Frank Gaus & Mark Andy.
-Saturday, Event #3-
One of the big stories from the weekend was former PA resident Darrin Disimo paying a visit to SCR driving Mike Ancas’s FSP Honda Civic. Darrin immediately took the fight to the locals by putting himself in the top PAX position after the morning heats. But as the case has been most of the year, the challenge to Darrin would come from the SS class. During the humid afternoon session Cory would go on to take the 2nd place PAX position. While Mark Andy would take home the overall win in his Corvette. With Darrin now in 3rd place, 4th would go to another SS competitor Dan Ireland who had a strong weekend. Trying to break SS’s strong hold on PAX in the 5th place position was Ethan Conner in his ever so quick BMW 328. Randy Pearson would round out the 6th place PAX position and the last trophy spot in SS for the day. Super Stock cars clouded the rest of the top ten PAX positions with the lone exception Greg Maloy in 9th who was pushing his red CRX to its limits. And despite being out of his usual ride Frank Gaus still broke top 10 driving Randy Pearson’s Corvette.
Elsewhere another interesting battle was brewing in the tire index class as two long time veterans who have been off the pavement for a while met for the first time. John Ryan in his BRZ squared off against Chris Kirkham in his Miata. Both of these talents were running using a C-stock index in their respective cars. The morning runs left Kirkham’s Miata a mere eight hundreds off the Ryan BRZ. When it was all done in the afternoon, John’s BRZ would come out ahead by a just over three tenths to Chris. However, the winner of the tire index for the day was none other than Alex Artayet. Alex’s VW GTI has been relentless on the tire index this year. Alex’s performance would be backed up by Nick Phillips who brought his SMF classed GTI home in the 4th place position.
Turnout for the day was affected by the heat with 54 drivers on record. Aside from SS and tire index the only other classes to have at least 3 competing cars would be ESP and STU. In ESP it was a hill climber battle again as Paul Lynd’s WRX brought home the win against the Chevy Camaro of Gibby Bozicevich & Kris Reid. While in STU Jonathan Sierra would fight off several cones in his EVO to take the win over Tim Ward in his WRX.
Several co-drives were occurring Saturday. None though were more interesting than Dennis Witt getting behind the wheel of Don Fazekas’s Sponge bob V8 miata. Don was happy to hold down the fort in his own car by a mere two hundredths of a second over Dennis. Frank Gaus took a test drive in Randy Pearson’s ZO6 which he reportedly liked very much. While Kristi Gaus started off in Trevor Hill’s R32 before a mechanical problem forced her to finish the day in the Andy’s Z06. It’s worth mentioning that SCR’s kart rental program paid off for 4 individuals who decided to try autocross for the first time. Scott Connors, Iggie Padilla, Justin Burdick, and James Holden shared a pair of Pitt Race rental karts for the day. It was a good way for people new to the sport to try autocross with minimal risk to their own cars to see if it’s for them.
The day ended with high humidity and a looming sun as fun runs carried on. Thunder clouds rolled in the distance as things drew to a close. After a small dinner the course was flipped around and modified for the following day.
-Sunday, Event #4-
The threat of rain was reported for later in the day. But aside from a brief afternoon sprinkle, 64 drivers enjoyed much improved weather conditions as they took to a slightly more open & backwards version of Saturday’s course.
The SS class would once again prove competition improves the breed as the class stormed the top 10. The morning runs would once again see Mark Andy taking the lead in his Z06. But the surprise came from Dan Ireland in his Grand Sport Corvette. An alignment adjustment on Dan’s Corvette gave it a new found sense of speed as it landed a time of 34.931, just nine hundredths off the Andy Corvette. Thundering on into the afternoon, Dan continued the charge with an opening run of 34.384 to take over the lead in SS. But on the 5th round of runs, Dan’s C6 would be bested by the fellow C6 Corvette of Randy Pearson with a 34.382! Going into the final runs it became a dogfight between Ireland, Pearson, and Andy who had been steadily keeping pace just behind the two C6’s. Dan’s final effort was marred by a cone hit so he would remain standing on his first afternoon run. Randy however was far from done and delivered 34.290 placing him at the top of SS & PAX. The only car left to take a shot at Randy was Mark’s Z06. However on Mark’s last pass an early cone hit sealed the deal and Randy Pearson would pick up his first SS & PAX win of 2012. There was one more surprise as Laura Andy jumped ahead of much of the SS class with a final run of 34.885 becoming one of only 4 drivers in the class to break the 34 second range on Sunday.
While SS once again tried to block off as many of the top 10 PAX positions as possible. Long time autocrosser Trevor Hill made sure nobody forgot his R32. While the blue VW was out early on Saturday. It roared back on Sunday with a 3rd place overall PAX finish. After some rear suspension tuning, Greg Maloy made huge gains in speed and landed himself a 6th place finishing spot. Mike Ancas once showed what he can do when he is on real tires and landed a 9th place PAX finish. And despite being dispossessed from her own car, Kristi Gaus would bring Trevor Hill’s R32 home in the 10th place spot.
A whooping 19 drivers showed up in Sunday’s tire index class. While John Ryan & Chris Kirkham were noticeably absent, the VW pairing of Alex Artayet and Nick Phillips were still present and making headway. However a 3rd VW came out to join the fray. Alan Eisenreich showed up after a two year hiatus in his brand new Golf R to see how his new VW faired against the competition. In the end it would be Alex’s GTI that would once again claim the top stop. Fighting on stock all-season tires and an impeding traction control system Alan made an afternoon dash to put his new Golf into 2nd place just three tenths off Alex. Nick Phillips would complete the VW show of strength with a 3rd place finish. Long time competitor Ted Weidner pushed his E-stock Miata into the 4th place spot. John Fink who is a relative newcomer to autocross put on an impressive drive and earned the 5th place trophy spot in tire index. Followed by Brian Vondran taking 6th in his D-stock WRX.
One class that ballooned in size on Sunday was Street Mod front wheel drive. It was four Honda Civics vs. the lone Pontiac Vibe of Pete Kowalik. From almost the start of the day, Steve Mullet laid down times in his new civic hatch that would go unanswered. Mike Ancas described Steve’s civic as “Angry” and not nearly as easy to drive as his FSP Civic. Steve’s final time of 36.1 was a full eight tenths ahead of the next closest civic of Steve Palmer. Palmer was followed very closely by Dennis Witt who was one hundredths off 2nd place in his own hatchback. Pete Kowalik’s Vibe and Jammie Anderson’s Civic coupe would round out the rest of the SMF standings.
Across the grid in another modified class. We saw the supercharged Miata of Dan Ennis split the co-drivers of the Charnesky Corvette in Super Street Modified. In good old Street Modified the Mustang of Robert Turberville would come back from a very close morning battle with Andrew Hankawitz’s EVO to take the win by a mere tenth. Paul Lynd had much less breathing room in ESP where Gibby Bozicevich would sneak within two tenths of Paul’s 36.495 on their second day of racing each other. Speaking of WRX’s Tim Ward would move on to take the win in STU on Sunday, followed by the GTO of Brian Buchanan.
Our next event is August 5th at Pittsburgh International Raceway. Pictures shown are from Saturday’s event courtesy of Chris Kirkham.
Sundays course from inside Randy Pearson’s Z06 Corvette.